Perhaps no statistic reflected Seattle's impotency at the plate during the season's opening series than a 1-for-27 performance with runners in scoring position, that is until the Mariners beat the odds with two RBI hits off Ken Giles in the ninth that defeated the Astros, 4-2, Thursday night to salvage one win out of their first four games. Houston (3-1) still leads the American League West by a game over Anaheim and Oakland.
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After a walk and a hit batsman, Giles gave up run-scoring singles to Jarrod Dyson and Jean Segura to snap a 2-2 tie as many of the 18,362 at Minute Maid Park waited for the Astros rally that never came. Edwin Diaz shut the door in the bottom of the ninth with strikeouts of Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki to end the game.
George Springer stayed hot with another leadoff homer in the first - his third blast of the young season - to give the Astros an early 1-0 lead but a solo shot by Marwin Gonzalez to lead off the third was the only other tally Houston could produce off Ariel Miranda and three relievers. While Seattle's offense had been mostly lifeless during the series, Houston produced just 30 hits in 39 innings themselves, scoring nine of their 12 runs thanks to home runs.
Miranda and Houston starter Joe Musgrove turned in almost identical efforts on Thursday - five innings, five hits, three walks and two earned runs allowed each - with Miranda fanning four to Musgrove's two. Musgrove loaded the bases in the sixth before exiting and Michael Feliz limited the damage to a game-tying fielders choice that evened the score at 2-2. Mitch Haniger had earlier gone deep for Seattle's other run.
Overall, though, the Astros can say "Mission Accomplished" to their opening series, grabbing the division lead and avoiding the meltdown that began a 7-17 month of April last year. Still, they were one Springer Dinger away from a series split.
The homestand continues Friday as the Kansas City Royals move in for a weekend set. Mike Fiers (11-8 in 2016) will get the Friday night start for the Astros against lefthander Jason Vargas (0-0 in 2016) in the 7:10 Central contest. Vargas will be the third straight lefty thrown at Houston.
- Bob Hulsey